Workers who are injured on the job and are prescribed painkillers on a long-term basis take longer to get back to work, according to a study led by a UC Irvine professor.
Given the attention that has been focused on opioid abuse in the country, the researchers checked data from workers’ compensation cases in 28 states to study the effect the prescriptions have on helping workers get back on their feet, said David Neumark, an economics professor at UCI.
“Everyone knows opioids have some ill effects, such as suicides, deaths and overdoses, but presumably one would hope there’s some benefits from these things,” Neumark said. “But, on average, we’re not finding medical benefits in the workers’ compensation system regarding a return to work.”
Neumark teamed with the Workers Compensation Research Institute on the study, which focused on prescription patterns for workers suffering with lower back injuries because they are often given prescription painkillers. Those cases account for about 11 to 19 percent of workers’ compensation claims of a week or more off from work.
The researchers studied data over a five-year period from October 2008 through September 2013.
“We find no problem with shorter-term use,” Neumark said.